Friday, November 11, 2011

FSN: Should You Sign the Petition? An Exchange between Seltzer and Eichholz


EDITOR'S NOTE: 

At the request of Professor Deborah Seltzer-Kelly (and the permission of Mike Eichholz), I am posting this exchange between the two concerning the confusing state of the FSN petition process. The Illinois labor law is written in such a way that the petition states X (in plain English) but means Y (under Illinois labor law). No doubt labor unions and their political allies made the process so contorted to kabosh any effort at decertification. The petition states that the signer adopts the FSN's third entity as signer's bargaining representative (X) but in reality it is only a way to get a vote on the current status of the FA and any alternatives (Y). Think of it as a vote of confidence/no confidence in the FA. 

Another factor: the lack of fair share means that many faculty who might sign the petition are apathetic. The union affects them indirectly but they do not pay $600 per year to the FA. They can go on with their lives and wish these periodic union-administration disputes would pass (as they always do).

Again, at Professor Seltzer-Kelly's request, I post the following exchange for interested readers. The FSN has 75% of the petitions they need and must get about 40 more signers before the window closes (i.e., before the FA and BOT sign the final contract). That is yet another hurdle for anyone unhappy with their union: decertification can only take place (generally speaking) when a contract has lapsed. 

EXCHANGE: Seltzer-Kelley(Curriculum and Instruction) and Mike Eichholz (Zoology)

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 12:12 PM, Deborah Seltzer-Kelly wrote:

Mike, can you tell me why the FSN has not made an AAUP Bargaining Chapter the other alternative for representation, instead of trying to create some new entity out of the Faculty Senate? The fact that the FSN doesn't offer an actual plan that would clearly work for this is, I think, a very substantial barrier for many of us in voting to decertify the FA. Frankly, too, I can see why this makes the FSN look like a stealth administrative support group to a lot of us who are very unhappy with both sides.
Thanks for any information you can give me -
Debbie Seltzer

On 11/9/2011 1:38 PM, Mike Eichholz wrote:

Debbie,  We considered the AAUP as an alternative, but our perception is a big part of the problem with the FA is the outside influence of the IEA/NEA; thus, we decided if we were going to support a collective bargaining agent we preferred one that had no outside affiliation.  It's not clear to me why this is preventing people from signing the petition cards.  I'm not certain how we can make it any clearer that signing these cards only indicates an indivdual would like to vote on representation and when that occurs he/she can vote for continuation of the current representation, new representation, or no representation at all when an election occurs.  Before such an election would take place, details of the new collective bargaining agent would be developed (with the input of all interested faculty and provided to all faculty so they know what they are voting for.  We can't take this step until after the petition is completed because it requires negotiation with the administration, and we can't contact the administration regarding this issue until after the petition is completed.  If you have additional questions, please let me know.  Feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone that may have similar questions.
Mike

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 2:25 PM, Deborah Seltzer-Kelly wrote:

Mike, with all respect, I hope you will understand why saying something along the lines of "Trust us, it doesn't actually mean what it says, and it can all be worked out later" is not a satisfactory response. In particular, your comment that "we decided if we were going to support a collective bargaining agent we preferred one that had no outside affiliation" confirms exactly what I believe many faculty fear: that the core group in FSN already has a firm commitment to a particular course, and will use the results to endorse that. The fact that you are promulgating a "push poll" in which faculty members who want to vote on alternative representation are being asked to endorse a specific model for that alternative feeds that sense. I am unwilling to put my name to something that, while it claims to simply affirm my wish for the freedom for faculty to make another of a wide range of choices, can actually be used to argue that I (and others) supported your Faculty Senate option.
I would very strongly suggest that if you want more faculty response--and to overcome the distrust among many of us raised by the difference between the verbal and the written versions of positions we are seeing on the parts of both our administration and our FA--you focus upon making your language far more precise. If what you really intend is for faculty to be able to consider and select an alternative agent for representation--possibilities for which might include an AAUP collective bargaining chapter, a local educational union, a Faculty Senate constituted body, or ???--then say so.
Thank you for your permission to disseminate your answers; I will continue to do so with your next reply as well.

Debbie

On 11/9/2011 5:29 PM, Mike Eichholz wrote:

Debbie,  As we have stated numerous times, the wording on the card is dictated by the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board.  If you don't believe me, call Eilene Brennan (312) 793 -3170 with the IELRB.  I agree that if I didn't know better I would not be comfortable signing that card.  That is why we have tried to pass on as much information as possible through e-mails.  If you have a suggestion that doesn't include changing the wording on the card, I would love to hear it.  The law is written to protect the unions in place, we can't do anything about it.  The whole idea with this approach is the entire faculty will have input and be able to vote on how any new bargaining agent is formed.  Page 71 of the below website provides the wording that is required for the petition.
http://www2.illinois.gov/elrb/Documents/RulesRegs1-24.pdf
If you have nay more questions, please let me know.

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 6:10 PM, Deborah Seltzer-Kelly wrote:

Mike, I have read each of your emails thoroughly, and believe that I have understood them. I will recapitulate my understanding so you can correct me when and if I go wrong:

The FSN has chosen to follow Part 1110 - Representation Procedures in an attempt to replace the FA with another organization in a single step, rather than following the decertification procedure and then creating a new entity that would need to work toward recognition;
-This process requires that 30% of the represented faculty sign a card authorizing a new group to be their exclusive representative for collective bargaining;
-Such a group does not yet exist, but a body called the SIU Representative Faculty Committee has been proposed by the FSN core group on the assumption that a cooperative agreement can be reached with the Faculty Senate to create it--so that is the name that is on the card;
-The decision to place the name of an organization that does not yet actually exist (and that may or may not be possible at all) was made by a core group within the FSN. This group decided not to pursue organizing as an AAUP collective bargaining chapter because they believe that outside influence is a problem in the case of the current Faculty Association, and for some unstated reason they have not pursued the independent local option either;
-Those signing the card are asked to trust that, when and if it gains the right to representation, the FSN actually intends to engage in open deliberations as to the shape the organization will take--which might include a Faculty Senate-associated body, an independent local union, an AAUP affiliate, or something else.

Is all of this correct? If so, then I reiterate my previous point: the FSN has chosen a procedure that relies upon faculty members to trust them to implement a particular process--despite the fact that it is not at all clear that the body the FSN plans to create will be possible at all, and that the core group within the FSN has already made a number of key decisions that have dictated the direction this effort has taken. There are two alternatives that you have not attempted to pursue: 1) go after decertification first--which I agree leaves a troublesome gap in representation; or 2) hold meetings of more substance than the get-to-know-you events that you've had so far, and have enough real discussion to do the consensus-building on the replacement organization now, so you have a genuine option to offer on the cards. I believe that this last might yield a better result; it would provide the clarity and honesty that many of us have found so lacking on both sides of the current struggle.
Debbie

On 11/9/2011 8:13 PM, Mike Eichholz wrote:

Close, but no this is not correct.

We had 2 options:

1)  We could initiate a petition for straight decertification.  If 30% of the faculty signed that petition, an election would have been held which would have required 50% of those voting to vote for decertification for it to pass.  If it passed a year of no representation would have been required before a new bargaining agent could have been elected in to place.

We chose option 2!

2)  Initiate a petition of replacement (I don’t have the form with me and don’t remember the exact terminology used on the form).  Again this approach requires signatures of 30% of the faculty, but after 30% of the signatures are received a vote by all faculty is still required.    The cost to using this approach is you have to provide a name for the replacement bargaining agent although you don’t have to provide any detail as to the form of that agent.  The benefit of this approach is that it doesn’t require the 1 year period of no representation, but more importantly, if you reach a 30% threshold for a vote, it is a 3 way vote (IELRB requirements, check with Eilene Brennan of the IELRB if you don’t believe me) between the FA, the new representation, or no negotiating age.  If none of the above have more than 50% of the vote, then there is a run-off election between the top 2.  Thus, this approach allows both those people that want a different bargaining agent and those that don’t want any bargaining agent to have a voice.  It also still allows those that would like to keep the FA to have a chance to do that as well.  I’ll reiterate, 30% of the signatures only leads to a vote with 3 choices, and that vote won’t take place until the alternative bargaining unit is actually been created.  Any information you have heard that contradicts this is just supporters of the FA trying to provide misinformation to confuse things.  Again, if you don’t believe me, talk to Eilene.  There is no procedure that allows for a replacement of the current FA without a vote of the full faculty.
By the way, there is no question about the legality of the bargaining agent we have proposed; again, this is just members of the FA trying to create a smoke screen to confuse the issue.
I’m happy to answer other questions.
Mike

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 1:06 PM, Deborah Seltzer-Kelly wrote:

Hi Mike -

I have now spoken with Eileen about a couple of my questions, and would be interested in your responses to that discussion:

Why have you not explained in your emails that the FSN is now working against a very short deadline? As soon as the new contract is signed, the window for submission of a representation petition is closed until January 1 of 2014 (per Section 1110.70 on Timeliness). In fact, too, Eileen says it is possible that the FA could make an argument even now that, since there is substantial agreement and documents are in preparation, the window is closed--although there's no telling how that argument would turn out until and unless there was a hearing.

While the IL Labor Board does not determine the viability of the proposed new organization--that is controlled by federal law--the FA and/or the administration could certainly challenge any entity that did not yet actually exist (with bylaws and so on) when they respond to the initial petition in that seven-day window (see Section 1110.100 Processing of Petitions). While the IL Labor Board might not make any finding on that, a federal finding as to the legitimacy/viability of a union body would definitely supersede theirs. Interestingly, too, Eileen told me that, in her personal opinion, it would be very unusual for an organization without at least some founding documents submit a representation petition.

I want to continue to make clear here that I am NOT pursuing this because I would like to undercut the FSN efforts; I too believe the existing FA has failed to serve anyone's interests, and that it has contributed to the deterioration of relations on campus. At the same time, I come to this process with considerable background in union representation (from my years in the Nevada Education Association), and I am quite concerned that any effort to challenge the FA must be done carefully and correctly.

Thanks for the discussion -

Debbie

On 11/10/2011 1:31 PM, Mike Eichholz wrote:

Debbie,

We didn’t discuss the issue of deadlines because, as your questions have clearly demonstrated, the process is already extremely confusing and we didn’t want to add to the confusion.  Without knowing i) when a contract might be signed, ii) the length of that contract (if it is < 2 years we don’t have to wait until the last year of the contract) we could not provide an accurate estimate of when the deadline is.  I have spoken with 2 individuals from the US Office of Labor-Management Standards and both indicated the information we have provided would be adequate until an actual vote.  There is no question the FA will file a grievance and challenge the petition.  We are attempting to ensure they have no basis for that grievance.  I’m not certain what you think our ulterior motives are, but I really don’t have time to continue these long e-mails.  I would be happy to speak with you by phone if you would like to give me a call (453-6951) to discuss the issue further.

Mike

5 comments:

i-History said...

As a FA member, I believe it didn't have to come to a strike. I know that other disagree but some of those who thought a strike necessary were/are still unhappy with the current FA leadership.

After the dust has settled, perhaps several months from now, I hope others will join me in asking for an election to determine who will run the FA for the next term. If any one knows when the current terms of FA officers run out, please let me know.

With mass retirements, some of the FA veterans will be leaving active duty at SIUC. All the more reason to get some fresh blood into the organization, especially at the top.

That is this editor's two cents.

Dave Johnson said...

Jon, thanks for posting this. Terms for FA officers are two years, so I think that the incumbents will be up for re-election for next fall (i.e., new terms start next fall). My guess is that many incumbents would be very happy indeed were qualified substitutes, er, replacements to be found. And I think it would be healthy if more than one qualified candidate appeared to run for FA president. Unfortunately the post is a rather unappealing one to hold. Doing the job well requires at least as much effort as chairing a department--and rather more responsibility than chairing a single department, given the president's ability to affect matters campus wide. But not only do you get no pay hike, you get no reduction in your regular workload. I hope we get fresh blood--but when judging those who have been active in the union for years now, it is important to recognize the sacrifices they have made in order to work for the FA.

Anonymous said...

The FSN is trying to get an opportunity for all faculty members to choose who should represent them.
It does not exclude FA at all. Thus it is pretty fair proposal.

If FA believe that itself is the right one to represent the faculty, they should encourage their members to participate this process. If FA passes this test, they can win more membership. It FA fails to win, it will be good for the community since a better representation would be possible.

No matter what, I agree I-History's comments. At least, the FA needs to change its current leadership. It is a big mistake to go on strike. It is not only damage the university, but also FA itself.

i-History said...

Dave,

Are you saying that many potential candidates would quote Coolidge?

"I choose not to run."

: - )

As an alternative, when it comes to a strike, I'd like to see the union have a resident skeptic so that members can appreciate the pros and cons of a strike. Think "devil's advocate" (even Mother Theresa gets dragged through hard questioning on the road to beatification!).

In some cases, as in 2003, this will arise naturally. I attended a meeting and there were several bargaining team members in favor of a strike and two who were either against or who felt divided.

In general, I'm concerned that there was a full court press to "sell! sell! sell!" the strike this time. It can't hurt to have a union-appointed curmudgeon there to say "well, on the other hand . . . "

Just a thought. The devil deserves an advocate too, right? LOL

Al Ghandi said...

Sorry, FA critics, the strike has little to do with who's representing whom. The administration effectively forced the situation to a strike.